Google Glass in Professional Hockey

ImageWith the recent announcement that Google will soon release its wearable, augmented reality glasses, there has been a lot of discussion about how the technology can be used.

What’s most intriguing to me is how these wearable devices can be used in professional hockey. I’ve come up with three uses.

  1. Professional hockey teams could use the device to send real-time information to players throughout the game. This could include who is on the ice with them, what play to run or where to place the puck.
  2. Coaches could use the data collected by these devices and apply them to their strategies for each game.
  3. Those outside the game, such as fans, hockey analysts, sports journalists or league officials could use the data collected to do their own analysis.

These are all just random ideas, so until the limitations of the device are shared, we can dare to dream. I’d be interested to hear what others think of using Google Glass in professional sports.

More information about Google Glass can be found here.

Between World of Warcraft and Fantasy League

Through different tools and applications, the space between fans and professional athletes has diminished significantly. The conduit between the two parties has been removed as social media replaces traditional media outlets as information distribution platforms. A new relationship exists between fans and professional athletes as the rules of engagement are still being worked out.

Recently, a blogger compiled some statistics to examine the amount of chances a team creates when a certain defencemen are on the ice. Using both traditional hockey stats and advanced statistics, Dellow pointed out how Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney struggled in comparison to his teammates. Dellow then posted his findings on Twiiter, much to the chagrin of Whitney.

Not surprised the blog post upset Whitney. Reputation is critical for professional athletes and their market value. But the work of hockey bloggers is becoming more and more engrained in the mainstream information surrounding the game of hockey. Fans are analyzing the game and using various communication tools to create, develop and share information that reaches professional athletes and managers.

Whitney’s tweet was trying to reduce the significance of the blogger by portraying the individual as someone who’s distant from the game. I do agree that bloggers are similar to World of Warcraft and fantasy league fans as they all engage within a participatory culture. All three categories include fans who do more than just consume, but also produce new, creative content.

But it would be in Whitney’s best interest to see fans more than just passive consumers of the game. Rather than mock the blogger, Whitney would be better off either ignoring the critique completely or raise counter-arguments. The last thing he should do is mock fans who participate as contributors to the information surrounding the game.

Video and Fan Experience

HBO’s four-part series “24/7 Penguins/Capitals” kicked off last night. Cameras went behind the scenes during current regular season games to gives viewers an inside look into the two teams that will play in the Winter Classic this year.

Viewers got to see stuff that never gets captured by game productions. Show highlights include coaches talking to their teams, players spending time with their families and just raw emotion coming out of player to player interaction.

Best scene for me was the fight between a couple players. After the crowd cheering and commentary commending both fighters, it cuts to a quiet medical room where the Penguins players is getting stitched up (in HD, mind you) and getting checked by the doctors. You know guys get stitched, but to actually see it done and the doctors presence in the room captured more than a game production.

I think these types of shows do a great job showing more than what we’re used to. We know, or have a general idea of what stuff happens behind the scenes but to actually see it through video enhances the fan experience. From watching the game, talking about it afterwards, engaging online with fans, we can piece together the stuff. We can assume coaches rip into their players. We know players get injured all the time. But to actually confirm what we assume really makes the show worth watching.

More responses from around web:

National Post

Cleveland’s response to Lebron James

After announcing his decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat, Lebron James faced a considerable amount of backlash. By announcing his decision in a one hour TV special, sitting down for a one-on-one interview, James irked not only Cleveland fans, but sports fans around the world.

Traditionally, when a player decides on where he/she wants to play, it’s a press conference setting, hosted by the team acquiring the player. The player and managers face the cameras and speak directly to the audience via television, radio or webstream. James went a whole other route and admitted afterwards he would have done things a lot differently if he had to do it again.

Here’s the latest ad by Nike featuring James.

So now James speaks directly to the camera, eye to eye, and asks ‘What should I do?”. He goes on to talk about his decision and what ramifications it could have. He spins the backlash from his decision into a motivator to persevere as a professional athlete. Typical sports ads deliver their message through actions. For example, an athlete would dunk a basketball or a hit a home run. A dialogue with the audience such as this ad is rarely used.
Grant McCraken’s comments about the ad and the individualism expressed by James and Nike are worth a read.

Cleveland filmmaker Dan Wantz recently released this response to the Nike ad featuring James, attached below. The video takes the Nike ad and splices in fan responses to what James should do.

Telling NewsChannel5, Wantz commented:

“I felt like Cleveland didn’t really have a voice in the matter. I saw a need for Cleveland to have a voice. I feel like this video was a good representation of how Cleveland feels.”

This comment is interesting because fans do have a voice. Message boards, blogs, Twitter and Facebook are all methods to give fans a voice and were used to support/jeer James’ decision. But it’s this video which matched the professional, polished look of the original Nike ad that really drew viewers on Youtube. It used footage from the original ad, clips from the decision and other highlights to really express a communities feelings. By wrapping all the feelings of Cleveland fans in a short clip, a summary is provided to fire right back at Nike and James. I found this to be much more powerful method to express feelings than social media tools.


Had to add this one. Just came out. MJ claims to have nothing to do with it though.

Power of the professional sports fan

Came across an article recently that really made me think about pro-sports and fans. It’s by Gladwell of the New Yorker and can be found here. Gladwell talks about how professional football has a lot of characteristics similar to dog fighting. This was written around the time Michael Vick was sent to jail for running a dog fighting operation.

Really it’s a kids game, but these athletes are under tremendous pressure. Expectations are from everywhere: teammates, club owners, families, sponsors and fans.

Teammates expect your best effort every game and every play. Contracts are paid before they even play a game, raising the owners’ expectations. Families rely on the pay cheque to cover child care, mortgages and bills. Sponsors expect a high level of professionalism, as athletes represent the brand.

And of course, the fan.

It’s a gate driven business. The people in the stands, people tuning in and those buying merchandise have invested in the pro-athletes financially and emotionally. They’re there to be entertained and to be engaged. They want the best. Failure to do so means the fan spends less or finds other options.

Athletes don’t just represent their team. They represent a city, a country or even a religion. If the team loses, the community loses.

The athlete themselves know that their careers can end at any time. They work their entire lives to get there but it can be taken away pretty quickly. There are younger players coming through the ranks every day, ready to take their jobs and pay cheque. Competition gets fierce because realistically, there are only a few spots out there in the professional ranks.

No matter how hard they get hit or how bad they get hurt, they are expected to get up and keep playing. The long term ramifications of continuous shots to the head or the beating their bodies take are still under review. But it’s safe to assume the majority of pro-athletes won’t be feeling too great in their old age.

The cause of this is pretty spread out across different factors, and of course depends on the situation. But the influence of fans on pro athletes and sports is extremely high, and could be growing because of social media.

Terry Fox

ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has done an amazing job covering different topics and stories over the past thirty years in sports. I haven’t watched every single one yet, but the ones that stand out for me are “King’s Ransom”, “The Two Escobars” and now “Into the Wind”. Each one deals with the impact sports has on the culture and society it’s within. The stories go into the ramification of sporting events on nations and social issues existing at the time. Terry Fox’s story goes one step further, dealing with Canadian identity and how sports play a role in its development.

The story of Terry Fox is inspirational. A man determined to raise awareness about cancer by running across Canada brings a lot of pride to Canadians. “Into the Wind” gives a lot of unseen footage of Fox’s trek and the different challenges he faced along the way.

What stood out for me the most was the importance of Terry Fox to Canadian culture and identity. His “grittiness” was talked about in the documentary and symbolized the hard-working nature of Canadians, according to Leslie Scrivener.

I’ve always believed that sports reflect society. It reflects life and the stories we have. Both have a beginning, middle and an end. Both have ups and downs. Challenges, success, failures, triumph. Athletic performances like Terry’s mean so much more than just sports. They provide us with inspiration, faith and identity. Fans play an integral role watching, following and engaging with sports. They take away a lot from the game but also embrace its effects to play a role in their culture.

“Into the Wind” can be watched here.

Professional Athletes and Social Media

Professional athletes aren’t strangers to the public eye. They play in front of fans in stadiums and around the world. They get paid to play a game and get an incredible amount of attention and adulation. Of course, they also get dumped on when things are tough. Sports fans are not the kindest bunch. Just ask any player in a performance slump or asked to be traded.

Dan Ellis learned the hard way what it means to be a modern professional athlete. He got into Twitter, had thousands of followers but had to delete his account for a mistake he made using the service. Additional commentary by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman and Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski.

Here’s what Ellis had to say about the NHL owners keeping money because of escrow:

If you lost 18% of your income would you be happy? I can honestly say that I am more stressed about money now then when I was in college.

More and more pro-athletes are getting into social media to get their own voices out to fans. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace eliminate the filter that existed between athletes and fans. But fans don’t want these accounts managed by a team or player rep. They want honesty from athletes when they send out thoughts, ideas and actions. Not advertising for tickets and team-sponsored contests.

The media’s role has always been to give fans what they want from the sport and athletes. This includes post game interviews, extensive statistics, insider information and editorial/opinion pieces. Even though the media has been removed as that filter, fans are still in control of what the sport and athletes provide. They pay to watch the games, support the team by buying apparel and, in essence, pay for the player salaries. It’s a gate-driven business. What fans don’t want is a comment from a millionaire athlete complaining about money problems.

Twitter users are all under the same rules and protocols online. Everyone has an equal voice and range of freedom. This includes following, retweeting, hashtagging, etc. So when fans are unhappy with the game or an athlete, it’s much easier to voice their displeasure and form a community online. Instead of a couple calls coming into the leagues office or a media outlet, a wave of tweets come in mocking the pro-athlete. The barriers to expression are gone so pro-athletes must be more mindful of what they do online.